Friday, December 5, 2008

The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice

Take some Indiana Jones, add a dash of Buffy, a sprinkle of Tomb Raider, a pinch of Ash Williams, and a dose of the absurd, and you should have a rough idea of what to expect from “The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice”, which premieres on TNT on December 7th. While this movie is not going to change your life, it is certainly two hours of action packed escapism.

The third entry in the series once again finds Noah Wyle (“E.R.”, “Pirates of Silicon Valley”) fumbling his way to heroism as Flynn Carsen, The Librarian. The movie opens in London, England with Flynn in a bidding war for a valuable artifact, and in the final minutes of his latest failed relationship. He wins the artifact, but loses yet another woman to his job, and the secrecy and sword fights that it brings.

Upon returning to New York, Flynn has a mental breakdown in front of his co-workers Judson (Bob Newhart) and Charlene (Jane Curtin) over the state of his life; or rather the lack of his life. It is during an attempt to convince the dog-like sword Excalibur to cut his throat that it is suggested that he take a vacation.

After a night of wine tasting and speed dating, Charlene pays Flynn a visit at his apartment, and tells him off for wasting his vacation cooped up in his apartment. “Follow your dreams” she tells him, leaving a pile of vacation brochures as she drunkenly staggers out.

Flynn takes this suggestion literally, for after dreaming of a woman asking for him to come to New Orleans to help her, his destination is decided. Unfortunately for Flynn, there is little time to relax in The Big Easy, as he meets Simone Renoir, played by Stana Katic, who runs a jazz club in an old monastery and just happens to literally be the woman of his dreams.
Pursuing Simone leads Flynn into an adventure involving former a former KGB agent, vampires, a many-cousined cabbie named Andre, voodoo, and even a pirate ship all in the race to get the Judas Chalice. The Judas Chalice is the cup made from the pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Christ, and is the vampiric equivalent of the Holy Grail.

The movie is well paced, and the writing keeps things moving forward at a pretty good pace, rarely dragging as the story moves forward. You can expect a lot of scenes that are there basically for exposition, but these scenes are necessary to make sure the audience understands how things work in the Librarian universe (for example, only a stake of Aspen can kill a vampire, not just any old wooden stake). I can only think of a couple of scenes that could have been removed from the movie completely without losing anything, but both of these are very short.

The movie has a strong sense of visual style; the outfits worn by Flynn and Simone are distinctive and set them apart from the characters around them. The settings are all very well crafted even if they may not all be realistic; the scenes in the library itself are worthy of pausing on your Tivo just to to spot all of the artifacts (Jules Verne's time machine was my personal favourite).

The special effects may be the movie's weakest point. They're not actually bad, but they do sometimes scream made-for-tv movie. They're not Sci-Fi Channel Originals bad, mind you; vampires disappear and reappear in a fairly stylistic fashion, but some things, Excalibur in particular, are done in a way that may pull you out of the movie in a way if you let them.

The movie's dialog sparkles when it's at its best, and at least keeps the story movie forward at its worst. The actors play off each other really well, and there are definitely moments that made me laugh out loud (my personal favourite was a Russian thug telling the heroes “We're really not this good. You guys kind of suck at sneaking around.”)

One thing I have learned from watching this movie is that shaving cream is the enemy of continuity. One scene in the movie places Flynn in a barber shop, having a fairly expositional conversation with Judson while being lathered up for a shave. As the camera switches around so does the amount of shaving cream on his face. To finish the scene they move outside where the shaving cream on his face changes from the thin kind mixed in a cup and applied with a brush to the thick foamy stuff that comes out of a can. This does nothing to hurt the movie, but I noticed it, and it amused me.

This is a good movie to share with the kids; there's no cursing, no blood, and the violence is non-explicit. There is one short implied sex scene, but the participants never even take their shoes off on screen. There are also a few scenes of vampires being slain, but this is done in the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” fashion with a poof of dust and sparks.

If you find yourself looking for something fun and a little exciting to watch come Sunday night, you could certainly do a lot worse than to watch “The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice”. I heartily recommend checking it out on December 7th on TNT.

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